After much ado, the Human Resource Development (HRD) ministry has taken another step towards drafting the National Education Policy (NEP). The new nine-member committee is headed by Former ISRO Chief and eminent space scientist K Kasturirangan. It also includes Manjul Bhargava, a Fields Medal winner and K J Alphonse, a retired bureaucrat, among others. It has been long since we, as a community of educators, have established the need of an overhaul in education policies to truly bring forth positive learning outcomes. So, let’s discuss what the NEP ought to address.
Digital is the way
In the 21st century, it is essential that the education sector embraces digital ways. Government initiatives, such as e-basta and e-pathshala, have already paved the way for digital tools in the classroom. And demonetisation led many schools to adopt cashless transactions. These initiatives and measures need to be strengthened further. Moreover, there is an urgent need to maintain all records of students. This would include all academic records as well as the record of all extracurricular activities – from the time they take admission to the time they leave school. Besides helping schools to go paperless, this initiative can also help students in having all their certificates at place. In short, this would revamp the administrative functions of schools.
Boost for lesser privileged students
The HRD ministry has already mandated private schools to reserve a quarter of their seats at the entry level for economically poor students in the neighbourhood. However, in several instances these schools have been found guilty of violating the mandate, which is a cause of serious concern. The policy needs to suggest stringent measures to avoid violation of the aforementioned mandate. Further, there has been suggestions of introducing a National Fellowship Fund for students belonging to economically poor background. This fellowship, which will take care of the student’s living expenses besides their tuition fees and other learning resources, is expected to mitigate problems of a million students to a large extent.
Poor quality of teachers is often attributed as the reason for the poor quality of education. However, training of teachers is a much-neglected aspect of education in our country. If the teachers are expected to use digital tools in the classroom, they ought to be trained for it. There are limited means available to facilitate this training. Thus, the government could encourage public-private partnership in certification, and thereby set a benchmark across the country. As recommended by the TSR Subramanian committee, 50% marks at graduate level should be the minimum eligibility criteria for admission to B.Ed. courses. This would ensure the quality of teachers to a large extent.
Common curriculum for English, Maths and Science
A common curriculum aims to eliminate disparities in curricula across states and implement a standard one across the country. Students from state boards often complain that they have to put in more effort for the national competitive examinations for entrance to law, engineering and medical course because the syllabus is different from their state board, this puts them at a disadvantage. Besides addressing this concern, parity in education standards would also be maintained with this measure.
Skill development in schools
The pressure of finding a job at the earliest pushes a lot of students, especially in rural areas, to drop out of school. The government ought to include measures to align skill development and vocational training centres within schools. This would help students attain focussed knowledge and hone their skills, and thus, make them job-ready.
Further, there has been recommendation from various quarters to increase the outlay on education to 6% of GDP. Though, it has been neglected on previous instance, the NEP would be truly revolutionary if it is able to bring this proposition to force. In the last couple of years, the focus of the government has shifted from ‘education for all’ to ‘quality education’. Attuned to the same philosophy, NEP is expected to bring positive changes in the education sector.